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Did Knute Rockne ever box Dwight D. Eisenhower?

Today’s post comes from Christopher Abraham at the Eisenhower Presidential Library. He answers a question each week on Facebook. This week’s Ask an Archivist query comes from Kansas.

“Did Knute Rockne ever box Dwight D. Eisenhower? I heard that this took place in Abilene, Kansas, around 1913.” – Anonymous

We have heard this story before. The legend goes that Rockne, who would later gain fame as a football coach for Notre Dame, traveled the country as an exhibition boxer and took on a young Dwight D. Eisenhower in Abilene. Rockne then attempted to convince him to become a professional boxer.

Unfortunately for presidential and sports historians, this event never took place.

This photograph shows Cadet Eisenhower kicking a football at West Point while NOT being coached by Knute Rockne (Eisenhower Presidential Library).

In a 1947 letter to his former aide Harry Butcher, Eisenhower wrote “There is no truth whatsoever in the story about Knute Rockne trying to interest me in a professional boxer’s career. The people who got that story started took two or three little different incidents, put them all together into a single story, and came up with some weird and wonderful ideas.”

Ann Whitman, the president’s personal secretary, wrote in 1956 that, “the President says there is not a word of truth in this–-and that he never met Knute Rockne until he was grown up.”

Library staff answer every reference question we receive, but not all questions will be posted to Ask an Archivist. Questions will be edited for length and privacy. If you would like to ask a question, please contact us!

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